Making Poetry at Palnackie with the U3A

Making Poetry at Palnackie with the U3A
Category: Live Literature

In early summer 2012, two workshops took place with members of Dumfries & Galloway U3A as part of the larger Viewpoint Voices project developed by National Scenic Area Officer, Anna Johnson, and poet and writer, Jean Atkin. 

The aim of the project was to encourage awareness, enjoyment of and pride in the National Scenic Areas of Dumfries & Galloway, through creative engagement with residents from a range of different backgrounds and ages.  We focused on the Viewpoints identified within each of the National Scenic Areas.

We also wanted to make the most of online resources to reach more people in this very rural area, so we planned to record the ‘Viewpoint Voices’ reading their work, and get the recordings online, sharing them as widely as possible.  Jean suggested the cinquain (2 syllables, then 4, then 6, then 8, then 2) as a form which would provide both versatility and challenge – and lend an overall coherence to the project.

In June an open-minded and enthusiastic group from the Stewartry U3A joined Anna Johnson, Jean Atkin and Clare Rodgers from the Scottish Book Trust at the Millennium Viewpoint in Palnackie.  The gorse blazed, the birds sang.  We talked about the history of Palnackie, its smuggling, its industry, its inhabitants.  Then we perched on benches, and wrote, silently, furiously, for nearly ten minutes. 

Making Poetry at Palnackie with the U3AThen all eleven of us repaired to Palnackie's cafe, where we drank tea and ate millionaire’s shortbread while playing wordgames designed to encourage poets to steal good ideas.  After that we began work on our Palnackie cinquains, the group really forging ahead and full of ideas.

A month later we all met for the second time.  The group had brought plenty of new work generated since our first meeting.  We did lots of reading aloud, and it became clear that the quality of much of the writing was really exciting.  The work echoed the natural and particular beauty of Palnackie, but explored the fragility of its ecology and nuances of its history too.  We recorded the cinquains there and then, through a fairly straightforward system with a mike and a laptop.  Have a listen:

Clare Rodgers, from Scottish Book Trust, came with us on our initial visit to Palnackie's beautiful viewpoint, and later sent her cinquain, so we read it out and recorded it too.

Here it is:

Joy shouts
from the gorse bush
the trees are fresh clean sheets
and the river waits patiently
for life.

Mind you, I had plenty of 'wish I'd written that' moments while working with this talented group.

Jean Atkin